At the Information Standard event on Wednesday, I joined Peter Mills, consulting director from our sister agency, The Team, to talk about how to build and protect your brand using social media. This is the second blog post following that talk and looks at how brands are using social media. The first, by Peter, discusses the issue of brands and branding and how social media can play a part in building a brand today.
Despite the fact that the essence of social media is engagement and interaction, the vast majority of brands today only use social media to broadcast their views at their target audience.
There is nothing wrong with this approach and for some brands it can work very well, a couple of obvious examples being media outlets, such as our client, The Economist, as well as sports clubs and other brands with a massive fan base who want to keep their fans informed. However, one of the key points of conversing on social channels is to spark debate and have a conversation. Having a conversation involves both listening and talking with not at the other person and yet brands are either reluctant or unable to move away from using social media to simply broadcast messages at their audience.
If you have customers or are a public facing organisation, then the moment you engage in social media you are creating another customer service channel whether that is your intention or not. Get it wrong and you will get a kicking. Get it right and you might get advocates.
Social media also means that your customers are talking about you or certainly have the ability to do so even if you are not talking with them. The conversation over the dinner table or down the pub is now being massively amplified to hundreds, thousands or even millions of people.
Many brands have reacted in fear. However, the astute ones have recognised it as a great way of gaining audience insight and/or directly addressing negative sentiment.
It goes without saying that if as a brand you engage in social media, you will want an audience. Some will find you themselves (especially brand fans), others need to be found and that involves creating great content and a dedication to search. It also involves thinking about integrated comms where all outbound marketing and communications supports the goal of building an audience.
Short term engagement
Be careful when you count the amount of ‘likes’ on your Facebook page because are they actually ‘liked’? What evidence do you have that it wasn’t just passing interest?
That may not be a problem. We have seen many examples of great social media campaigns that can generate significant brand awareness and that can make them highly successful if that was the goal. One of my favourite examples is the Tippex Youtube campaign ‘Shoot the Bear’.
However, brands are beginning to understand that the vast majority of social media campaigns to date have been too momentary and lacked audience stickiness. As such, brands are beginning to explore new ways of creating sustained engagement and that is going to dominate social media strategy moving forward and is a far bigger challenge for a whole variety of reasons.
What digital communications enables us to do is to have a sustained conversation with the target audience. If brands can find the right thing to discuss then they can influence the audience to participate in a conversation with the brand. This lies at the heart of achieving sustained engagement.
For most campaigns, an advertising presence on Facebook is beneficial. It’s cost effective, targeted to niche audiences and is often a sensible way to kick off activity and encourage new fans/followers. It’s not just the sponsored ads either which you are probably familiar with. Promoted Posts which are targeted turbo-charged posts can be combined with Pay Per Click to deliver results. Similarly, Twitter is now running sponsored tweets and, more controversially, sponsored trends.
In the next post we will delve into the questions brands need to ask when considering social media and our top tips for social media success for brands.